Disneyland may be considered the Happiest Place on Earth for those who are lucky enough to walk through its gates. There seems to always be magic in the air and a feeling that nothing bad could ever happen there. Unfortunately, that happy feeling doesn’t always extend to all Cast Members, many of whom feel that Disney does not pay them enough to create the magical moments that Guests have come to expect.
About a year and a half ago, Disney workers filed a lawsuit against the company, claiming that Disney does not pay its employees a living wage. The lawsuit began with five former workers, but that number has now increased — while the exact number is not stated, lawyers representing the workers claim that it is in the thousands.
The suit is not only comprised of former Disney employees but also employees from Sodexo and SodexoMagic, a company that runs restaurants and coffee shops throughout Disneyland Resort.
In a recent article, the Los Angeles Times reported:
Attorney Randy Renick, who represents the workers, said Monday that he couldn’t disclose exactly how many employees comprise the class, but placed it in the thousands.
“I think the issues here are simple: The voters demanded that companies like Disney, who take public handouts, pay their workers a living wage,” Renick said. “Disney should not get a pass.”
Voters approved Measure L in 2018, requiring resort businesses that receive a city subsidy to pay at least $15 an hour. Under the ordinance, the minimum rises by $1 an hour each year until 2022, when it reaches $18. Raises will then be based on the cost-of-living index.
According to the lawsuit, the City of Anaheim is using tax dollars from Disney to pay off the construction bonds that Disney paid for the Mickey and Friends parking structure at the Disneyland Resort. That means that Disney isn’t really paying its taxes; instead, it is paying taxes that are paying off other bills owed by the company.
The Mickey and Friends parking structure has long been a point of contention for the City of Anaheim, which paid over $100 million for the lot to be built and Disney received a lease from the city for $1 per year. Disney, in turn, now charges a minimum of $25 per car — extra for preferred parking and larger vehicles. Disney gets to keep all of the profit it makes from the parking garage.
A measure called Measure L was passed in Anaheim in 2018 and says that companies receiving tax subsidies from the city must pay their employees a living wage. The lawsuit claims that Disney kept the profits that it made from the parking garage and did not pay a required living wage while the company was letting the City of Anaheim pay for the parking structure. Disney is contending that the Mickey and Friends parking structure is not a subsidy.
Per the LA Times:
In a February 2018 report, Disneyland employees cited high instances of homelessness, low wages and food insecurity. The report was compiled for the Coalition of Resort Labor Unions by researchers at Occidental College and the Los Angeles-based Economic Roundtable.
According to the Coalition of Resort Labor Unions, more than 85% of union workers at Disneyland earned less than $15 an hour at the time of the 2018 report, which was released before Measure L was approved.
In 2018, the Walt Disney Company made just over $59 billion. In 2019 it made almost $70 billion and only $65 billion in 2020, which is still an impressive sum due to the fact that the theme parks and numerous film productions had to be shut down for quite a long time because of the pandemic.
This is not the first time that Disney has been accused of not paying its workers a living wage. Abigail Disney, the great-niece of Walt Disney, has frequently spoken out against what she thinks is Disney taking advantage of Cast Members. Cast Members — current and former — have also agreed with her and recently protested against corporate greed outside of Disneyland.
At this time, Disney has not made a public comment about the lawsuit moving forward, but larger companies like Disney usually make it a habit to not comment on pending litigation. No more information, such as mediation or trial dates, has been announced at this time.
Do you think Disney pays its employees a fair, living wage? Let us know in the comments!